While in high school and in college, there were no organized sports teams for Jan Federice to play on. She did get a chance to coach later on at Shenendehowa High School, though, and she turned that opportunity into a hall of fame career.
“This door opened up for me to be involved with a team, and be an integral part,” the Plainsmen’s former multi-championship soccer coach said. “That appealed to me, and I like challenges.”
Federice passed so many of them in her 21 soccer seasons at Shenendehowa, the last 17 with the varsity team from 1980 through 1996, when her girls won nine Section II championships, made six state title-game appearances and came away with the school’s first New York crown.
“Jan was a perfectionist in planning and scouting, but she was also a great motivator,” said Ken Strube, who was coaching title-winning Shenendehowa girls’ basketball teams at the same time Federice’s Plainsmen were excelling. “Some people are that way. She got the most out of her athletes.”
Recently named to the fifth class of the New York State Girls High School Soccer Hall of Fame, Federice shared credit for the 277-57-13 record she attained in her varsity run that also included nine Suburban Council titles.
“It was an array of things, but number one, I had a great coaching staff,” Federice said. “So many lower-level coaches were a part of it. When the girls got to me, they were prepared.”
Federice singled out then-freshman soccer coach Kathy Frederick, who for years also led the school’s gymnastics team.
“She had the ability to teach skills but was also great with the intangibles like work ethic, discipline, attitude, your role with the team,” Federice said of her colleague.
Federice also had players who strived for greatness, and often achieved that.
“Our kids had that passion for the game,” the widowed mother of four and grandmother of seven said. “Even our practices were very competitive.”
Organized practices and games were just a dream in the days before Title IX when Federice was attending Ballston Spa High School and Ithaca College, prior to her 35-year career as an elementary school physical education teacher that ended in 1997.
“I never played soccer,” Federice said. “My experience was high school gym class. At Ithaca, I took two eight-week courses. I had to learn the game.”
She did, and learned it well, and her teams vied for titles on a regular basis.
“I took it seriously,” said Federice, who six times was named the Suburban Council coach of the year and six times was tabbed the Section II Class A coach of the year. “My kids thought sometimes too seriously.”
Federice guided Shenendehowa to three straight Section II Class A titles from 1981-83, another in 1988, four in a row from 1990-93 and one more in 1996 in her final season. Each of those last six area title teams won regional competitions, too, and went on to make state championship game appearances.
“We each had a season here or there when we were not one of the top teams [in Section II], ” Strube said of Federice and other contemporaries in veteran Shenendehowa football coach Brent Steuerwald and longtime Plainsmen boys’ soccer coach Mike Campisi. “We were usually knocking on the door.”
One of Federice’s biggest wins came in the 1996 Section II final, when Shenendehowa edged a Niskayuna team that was unbeaten, ranked No. 2 in the country, and had won state banners in each of the three previous years. Katelyn Jones scored both goals in that 2-1 win, which was followed by three wins more before a 3-2 loss to Northport in the state title game.
“That was a great team to go out with,” Federice said. “That was a special group. They overcame so much adversity, mostly due to injuries.”
Shenendehowa garnered its state title with Federice in 1992 after battling to a 0-0 overtime tie with Walt Whitman. That was the 19th shutout for the 21-1-1 team that featured such standouts as Antoinette DeLucia, Liz Villamil, Becky D’Aleo and Danielle Rotondi.
“We took 35 shots, and they took four shots. In our hearts, we knew we were the better team, but their goalie was fantastic,” Federice said. “It was a frustrating game, and coming off the field, the look on their faces was no joy. I remember telling them, ‘When you look back, it will be a special memory.'”
Federice recalled coming home after that state final and being greeted by her daughter Terri, who years before had been diagnosed with the neurological disorder called Sandhoff disease, which affects both the spine and the brain.
“She was our biggest fan,” Federice said. “When we tied and got the state title, she had the balloons all ready and signs all made up. I’ll always remember that.”
Terri Federice died in 1995 at the age of 25. Her mom later wrote a book about her courageous struggle entitled “25 to Life,” and it was released in 2011.
“My hope is that it can help others who are in a similar situation,” Federice said of her book.
Federice had four-year varsity softball and JV basketball coaching stints at Shenendehowa, and served as a gymnastics official. She was inducted into the Shenendehowa Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010 along with one of her first star players, All-American Betsy Drambour, who helped the Plainsmen win Section II titles in 1981 and 1982.
The New York State Sportswriters and Coaches Organization for Girls Sports previously selected Drambour (in 2017), as well as 2006 Shenendehowa graduate Ashleigh Moore (in 2018), for induction into the New York State Girls High School Soccer Hall of Fame.
The 2021 state hall of fame class that includes 2014 Niskayuna graduate and two-time state player of the year Meghan Doyle, as well as the 2020 hall of fame class, will be honored at an induction ceremony Sept. 11 at Niskayuna High School. Last year’s ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.